I watched a movie last night called “The Way”, starting Martin Sheen, and I finished it wanting to cry. Not because it was overly sad, or because a character that you grow to love dies in the end. I wanted to cry because it was so inspirational.
The story tells of Tom, a man who is quite content with his life as an eye doctor finding out that his lively and spontaneous son died on his first day of doing the El Camino de Santiago, or “The Way of St. James”. When in France to identify his son’s body, Tom decides to have him cremated and does the Camino walk himself, scattering bits of his son’s ashes along the way.
It is a beautiful story that really expresses it’s tag-line “You don’t choose a life. You live one.”
The El Camino de Santiago, or “The Way of St. James” is trekked across by tens of thousands of people every year. Starting off in various parts of Europe, they all make their way to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, some walks taking from one week up to two months. While some do it for religious reasons, many travelers take on the path for other reasons such as health, travel, sport or to escape from a chaotic modern life. Some also find it to be a spiritual adventure where one can find the time to meditate on their lives.
Pilgrims follow posts that are marked with the modern symbol of “the Way” to navigate their path. There are also many hostels along the common routes of the Camino that provide overnight accommodations for the pilgrims, and they also usually display the symbol of “the Way” or the “St. James shell”.
Most pilgrims/travelers carry around a credencial , also known as the “pilgrim’s passport”, which is stamped at each town (refugios) that the pilgrim has stayed. It is also proof to the Pilgrim’s Office in Santiago that the route taken was completed successfully. The “pilgrim’s passport” is also necessary if the pilgrim wants to receive a compostela, a certificate notifying the completion of the pilgrimage.
The highest recorded number of pilgrims to do the Camino in one year is 272,703 in 2010.
I would absolutely love to walk to Camino one day. To be able to get back to nature while exploring new countries (depending on where you start), and I just can’t imagine the vast number of amazing stories that those tracks hold. I can already feel that the Camino would be a spiritual journey for me, a way to release any negative energies that my body is harbouring. I definitely intend on doing the pilgrimage walk, and it has already made it’s way near the top of my Bucket List.
So if this sounds like your kind of thing, I totally recommend it, and I haven’t even done it yet. If you are interested, look it up and see what it has to offer. Many people do it as a way to quit an addiction, to learn more about themselves or make a promise to themselves that if they can make it to the end, things will change for the better when they return home. I also definitely recommend watching the movie. Beautifully written by Emilio Estevez, it is definitely an inspiring journey that’ll make you want to take one of your own.